Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Printmaking Workshop

Last weekend I attended a fabulous etching and printmaking workshop with Victoria Atkins of the Wallace House "Press Gang". The workshop was organised by the Caloundra Regional Gallery and held at the Maleny Arts & Craft Group building.

I wanted to attend this one because it was about etching without acid. Whilst I am enamoured of the etching process and the creation of prints; I am somewhat wary about having acid around the house and working with its fumes and burning and exploding potential etc, so have tended not to do much of it - in fact none really for 2 years. We learnt how to etch aluminium plates with a copper sulphate and salt solution.

We also learnt how to create depth of tone in our plates (something that has eluded me previously) and to apply chine colle and colour to our prints.

We worked with a small plate on the first day - testing techniques and different materials to block out the etching - bitumen, car wax, oil pastels, etching ink, contact, lithograph pencils, enamel aerosol paint and so on. We created a plate that was like a sampler of the techniques.  Using some of these techniques I created another small plate and added to it on day 2 with chine colle with used teabag; and colouring the plate with 'the dolly method'.

Overnight I looked at images and came across this piece 'Landline with vessels' by Lorna Crane.

When I looked at it, I realised that it was a perfect example of tone for me and would offer me a good chance to sit and think thru how the different dark and light tones, combined with marks could be created. I thought and thought. And then I wrote a step by step process to myself - trying to ensure that I covered off all the angles.

I was thrilled that I achieved what I set out to do with regard to getting the tones and textures right.  Any new process is tricky to get your head around, and for me the fact that things are reversed when printing, that what you cover up (make dark) will remain the lightest, and what you want dark must remain uncovered and so on, really made me slow down and think, not just do.

I then enjoyed applying colour for different effects; and not completely wiping the ink off the top surface to create lines and movement in a black and white piece. I would still like to do a piece and colour it using the dolly method to see if I can capture the colours as well as the tones of the original.

These pieces are just for me - to look at and reflect on my learnings - but you get to see them too.


  1. ahckkkk! yet another example of 'all roads lead to the far south coast' (lorna is a local from around my parts...)

    ahhhh printmaking - I just shake my head.... I'm really clueless (its on one of my 'to do' lists somewhere...) - a wonderful printmaking girl friend of mine from these here parts has an exhibition happening down here now - WONDERFUL stuff.... check it: http://tanja-riese.com/

  2. Hi Ronnie - yes I wondered if you would know Lorna - I did the same snap thing as mum and dad used to live nearby. Am off to check out that link!

  3. Wonderful results, Fiona - especially the teabag covered one - time to get the printing press cracking again xoxoxo

  4. This is great stuff, F - I really admire your seeking out new methods and sharing the learning process with us!

  5. Fiona, that workshop sounds wonderful! I love the etchings, what a cool technique! Also: It's Tuesday so my post is up!

  6. Fiona...wonderful example of your diligence and desire to learn! I applaud your very organized way of going about things too. As you know, I live with a printmaker and love the possibilities that printmaking provides and have had some experience with it myself, but I have to say, I don't take to it as a way of working for myself. But so many possibilities are there and these days it doesn't have to involve nitric in order to etch...John used ferric chloride (I think that's it) to etch copper plates here at home...non-toxic! He tries to keep his shop at home and at school non-toxic....and you can clean up with canola oil....no need for mineral spirits or turpentine! Keep at it, you'll make amazing work!

  7. Hi Fiona, how lovely to see you working on etching! I etch on copper and aluminium plates at home (well, in the studio) using ferric chloride and copper sulphate and cleaning up with vegetable oil. You can also etch on lino! I was very interested to read your thoughts about how it works for your art practice and will look forward to see how things develop. Meanwhile, thank you so much for the rust recipes! I'm looking forward to trying that out too, just as soon as I've finished teaching... Sara

  8. so cool, fiona, you are getting somewhere very interesting. i have a longing to make prints...i kept wandering into the print studio at p.b.i. last summer, staring and staring at the amazing work.

  9. Hi all - thanks for the positive feedback!

    N- yes, I am itching to ink up and use the press again!

    G/TT - it's a process I love and admire and just want to explore a bit more and these two days gave me a chance to focus for a bit.

    Jane - thanks for the post and link!! I am always in awe of how the chemical reaction can eat away metal and leave this thing you can 'paint' with. i also love the look of the plate itself.

    Patti - Thanks, I really forced myself to stop and think it thru - I fought against it, wanting to just 'see what happened' and realised my natural inclination has left me disappointed with my results in the past, so persevered against my will! Its so nice to not have to use the acid and turps.

    Sara - enjoy the recipe! I have seen some of your prints and know how good they are; I am seriously just fiddling at the moment; but it is such magic when you lift the page - i will be hooked I know.

    Velma - there is true magic in it Velma - almost alchemic in a way and its a bit mesmerising. I am not sure where I'll get to, but I'm keen to find out!

  10. Hi Fiona,
    Looks like this was a great workshop and I am impressed by your considered approach to the technique. I think having 2 days looks as if it was a huge benefit. I can never manage 2 days in a row (a full day is a huge challenge) and so I miss out on exploring a technique in greater depth as you have. I have to focus on picking up the basics and it's not always easy to work it all out without a more experienced eye to provide some guidance.
    Have fun exploring where this takes you!

  11. hi Amanda - you're right I really needed the overnight to reflect and test and think, and then the opportunity to go back and try. I have tried to do a lot of stuff by myself (small country towns don't have LOADS of workshop opportunities) and know how different it feels to have experienced eyes look at what you are doing; or to look over somebody else's shoulder and see how they approach something.

  12. Hi Fiona, I have come across your blog while in search of a print workshop in the Gympie / Sunshine Coast region. The workshop you attended sounds great and you obviously got a heap out of it. I wonder if you might be able to shed some light as to where I could find a workshop, so I too can test my (rusty) skills and learn new techniques? Mel

  13. Hi Mel I couldn't find a way to email you so here is my response in case you pop back! I think Wallace House at Noosa would be a good place to start, and then check if the SCC had any more workshops planned - they seem to run a few different ones. I am away at the moment and my brain us Hernandez sorry...


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